[Update: Xbox One VR confirmed by developer!]
Surprising absolutely no one, Microsoft has a new version of the Xbox One in development that will be announced next month at E3 2016. We already know unofficially that a similar thing is happening on the Sony front with a new, more powerful and 4K-ready PlayStation 4 (codenamed "Neo") as well.
On the Xbox front however, there's yet another Xbox model coming slightly further down the line according the latest insider leaks, and from what we know about it, the earlier conflicting reports about whether or not the next Xbox would be a new console or an incremental upgrade now make more sense.
First, let's recap. In response to rumors over the last few months of the upcoming "PlayStation 4.5" Microsoft’s Phil Spencer warned gamers and industry pundits in April to not expect any sort of incremental Xbox One upgrade from their camp. "If we’re going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers," said Spencer while speaking at the Build Developers Conference earlier this year.
Less than two weeks later, FCC filings from Microsoft suggested that new Xbox hardware could indeed be on the way very soon and just a few weeks ago that was followed up with the company hinting a reveal about taking gamers "beyond" the Xbox One (they've been teasing a bigger push and cross-platform support with Windows 10). Despite the 'will they, won't they' aspect of it all, three years in for the Xbox One lifecycle seems the right time for a slim model (the Xbox One is stupidly big and ugly after all) much like they did with multiple variants of the Xbox 360. Recent reports said as much as well, that there could be an Xbox One slim ready in time for an unveiling during the Microsoft Xbox E3 2016 press conference.
Today, Kotaku has confirmed that with multiple sources and have also learned much more interesting details about the future of Microsoft's console gaming platform.
2 New Xbox Models Coming in Next 2 Years
Firstly, there's indeed a new compact Xbox One model coming by this holiday season and it's believed to feature 2TBs of hard drive space, answering at least one of the issues of the base model. This cheaper, smaller Xbox One will be showcased at E3 and unveiled during the Xbox presentation on Monday, June 13 at 12:30PM EST.
That much anyone could have and probably already has speculated upon, but the more interesting news is on what's coming next. Kotaku's sources (three separate sources, mind you) reveal that the unnamed 2017 Xbox console is codenamed "Scorpio" and will feature the upgrade fans are waiting for. It'll support a more powerful GPU for 4K support and could potentially support the Oculus Rift virtual reality hardware. It's possible given that information that this 2017 Xbox will be more powerful than the incremental PlayStation 4 "Neo" system coming up this fall. Come 2017, Microsoft may finally have the leg up on their rival in terms of home console power - but that assumes PlayStation won't have something similar by then. Specs on this new Xbox haven't been finalized but it was reportedly shown to select third-party publishers last week.
This is where I say "I told ya so!" The lack of Xbox VR news has been a nagging question since PlayStation first teased their own VR hardware (previously known as Project Morpheus) and Microsoft only had HoloLens augmented reality as a response. Microsoft and Oculus VR did partner up to include Xbox One controllers as a pack-in with the Rift headset so it seemed a given to me that one day the Oculus Rift would be usable on the Xbox console. There's just no way Microsoft (who again, claims to be all about the PC - more on this shortly!) allows Sony to have exclusivity on the home console VR front when the Xbox One is miles behind on sales compared to the PlayStation 4.
Kotaku only knows that there are reportedly talks taking place between Microsoft and Oculus at this point, but the entire strategy is codenamed “Project Helix” with the goal of bringing the Xbox platform and Windows operating system together. And yes, that means that Xbox exclusives should finally get the proper PC treatment, including games like Halo 5: Guardians which only came out on Xbox One. We wouldn't be surprised to see it announced for PC in the near future though...
The messaging here is that Microsoft is seemingly moving towards what Phil Spencer was hinting at for months, that the console space will continue converging with the PC model in that they'll get incremental upgrades so they're never left too far behind when new hardware and technologies emerge. Think iPhones and Android devices which iterate annually but support the same OS. That's the Windows 10 gaming future across PC and Xbox consoles.
Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks alongside our E3 coverage where the new hardware will be unveiled!
Xbox One Slim concept by Retovona.